October 24, 2011

Shannon Airport is more than an important access point for Ireland and a convenient pre-clearance point for entry into the United States. The airport has also helped the local community grow into a major economic center, by attracting new businesses to the County Clare region of western Ireland.

“For over 50 years, back to when Ireland was largely an agricultural community, the airport has remained a major economic driver,” noted David Hogan, Planning Manager with Shannon Development, the regional economic development agency. “Certainly the airport has been a focal point for most major export-orientated economic development over many decades, and it remains a key part today.”

Originally a small airfield developed alongside a flying boat terminal, Shannon Airport hosted its first transatlantic commercial flight in 1945. Back then, the airport seemed primed for healthy business as a convenient fuel stop for piston-powered aircraft before and after a trip across the North Atlantic. By the 1960s, however, the Jet Age resulted in more planes flying over Shannon than landing there, requiring area officials to find new ways to capitalize on what the area had to offer.

“The airport in effect created the business aviation community at Shannon during the 1960s and 1970s,” Hogan added, “and in a real sense, the airport effectively created business development as well. When Shannon Development was set up in 1959 to further business development and tourism created by the airport, it led to the town itself growing to become an industrial complex.”

Michael Foley, Business Development Manager for Shannon Development, noted that the business park adjacent to the airport (the Shannon Free Zone) is now home to more than 100 businesses, with many of them based in North America. In 2010, those companies generated over 3 billion Euros in revenue, with 600 million Euros returned to the community by workers spending their paychecks in the Shannon area.

“Those figures are very significant,” Foley noted, adding the development group was also able to secure close to 6 million Euros in funds to restore and redevelop the famed King John’s Castle, Limerick.

Of course, Shannon Airport and Shannon Development would like to see those numbers grow larger still. Both entities are managed by the Irish government, and work together to promote opportunities for businesses to relocate to the area. One of those outreach efforts was for both agencies to exhibit at this year’s NBAA Meeting & Convention in Las Vegas, NV.

“We are well-positioned for U.S. companies wanting a European location,” noted Joe Buckley, airport Business Development Manager. “Ireland is very pro-business from the point-of-view of agencies focused on creating jobs. We received a number of inquiries at NBAA from businesses interested in what Shannon has to offer.”

To that end, the Irish government offers several incentives for businesses to locate to Shannon, including direct investment subsidies, capital grant funding, and investment in R&D programs. Ireland also boasts a low 12.5% corporation tax rate. Perhaps most importantly, however, Foley noted that Shannon offers convenience.

“Shannon Airport is an uncongested airport,” he said. “You can leave the terminal and be at your desk within 10 minutes.”